Boston brothers bring burgers

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Wahlbergs land in Yorkville


  • A Dorchester, Massachusetts, family has got a foothold on the Upper East Side. Photo: Lorraine Duffy Merkl

You would’ve thought that Marky Mark was flipping patties, Donnie was waiting tables, and Jennie McCarthy was the hostess.

There was an hour-long wait last Friday night to get into the new Wahlburgers restaurant on Second Avenue near 85th Street, which celebrated a soft opening on May 11. They don’t accept reservations, so it’s first-come, first-served.

My 19-year-old daughter, Meg, whose idea it was to dine there, and I put our name on the list at 7:30 p.m. and were told they would text us when the table was ready. My husband, Neil, was meeting us in front. As he is not big on “waiting” in general, and less so for a seat at a burger joint, I hoped for major train delays — the later he arrived the better. When Neil caught up with us at 8, he retained his sense of humor to get us through what turned out to be the remaining 40 minutes of our anticipated seating. During that time, I observed UES behavior at its finest.

There were the people who walked by wanting to know what everyone was standing around for, looking a bit perturbed that they were out of the loop about the invasion of the Bostonian brothers (Mark, Donnie and Paul, the chef, are the owners). Others would approach the young host to be added to his iPad seating list. Upon being told the length of the wait, each and every one would shake their heads and declare, “That’s ridiculous,” stomp away, confer with the rest of their party, then return to give the young man their names.

And what would a “velvet rope” (albeit an invisible one) situation be without the cajolers, pleaders and combatants. To his credit, the sentinel with the iPad was poised and polite, while he remained firm that no one would be cutting the line. Last but not least, there was the take-out contingency, who thought they would show up we “list people” by heading around the corner to 85th to put in their order. That stay was no less daunting.

When I tired of people-watching, I was entertained by the four, large monitors behind the bar (yes, they serve booze) that can easily be viewed from the street. One was tuned to the Mets game, with the other three running the same behind-the-scenes-with-the-Wahlbergs footage on a loop. I would be remiss not to stress that Wahlburgers is indeed a family-friendly establishment. In fact, its ethos is on the wall at the entrance:

Growing up in Dorchester, MA with 9 kids in a triple decker house,

we didn’t have much, but we had each other, & that’s what mattered most.

In the toughest of times we always made the best of times.

And for us, no time was better than sitting at the table together,

sharing good food, a few laughs, and lots of love!

At Wahlburgers we hope to share a little bit of those times with you.

When my family finally got the text, and got seated, it was a generally positive experience. The décor is sleek and streamlined, with Kelly green as its signature pop-of-color. The newly trained staff is still finding its footing, but all were convivial and solicitous. The food is good, but not that much better than the other establishments in our area; in other words, I don’t think Shake Shack will shutter any time soon.

Because of its cachet of celebrity, and open, inviting atmosphere, as well as prime location, Meg already has a date to return with her friends. Neil, (“When all is said and done, it’s still just a hamburger,”) and I are satisfied with our lone visit.

If I am going to stand around hoping to be a guest, I’ll do my lingering on Fifth Avenue between 89th and 90th for a table under the limestone aches of Heavenly Rest Stop, the chapel-cum-café next to The Church of the Heavenly Rest. The sidewalk seating reminds me of why I love living in NYC and the food is, dare I say, divine. Plus, if I drop dead from waiting an hour for my table, they can hustle me right next door for my funeral.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels “Back to Work She Goes” and “Fat Chick,” from which a movie version is in the works.

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